When Roxanne Clement joined AUSD in 1975, classrooms had no computers, school offices used mimeograph machines (rather than copiers), all lines were landlines, and even answering machines were not yet common. Hip huggers, bell bottoms, and pet rocks were popular, as was "All in the Family" and the newly launched "Saturday Night Live." Gerald Ford had become president a year earlier (when Nixon resigned), the Vietnam War had ended five months earlier, and Patricia Hearst was about to be captured in San Francisco.
It was, in short, a very different time, and Clement, the most senior teacher in AUSD, has been working here since that time. On the eve of her retirement last week, we sent her some questions about her perspectives on the changing education landscape and what some of her best experiences have been.
Which schools have you worked at in AUSD? And what positions did you hold?
Mastick School (yes, before it was a senior citizen center it was a K-3 then K-5 school) I taught looping classes 2-3, 3-4. Teacher of the Year in 1981.
Washington School (K-5) TSA: Media Center Specialist, Learning Coordinator for Title 1, Technology Lead, Mentor Teacher, State Program Reviewer.
Bay Farm School: Opened the Bay Farm School Library, TSA: Media Center Specialist, then Teacher Librarian, Technology Lead, AEA Elementary Director
You have been working for AUSD for almost 50 years. What are some of the most notable changes you have witnessed in your time here?
I can remember teaching “BC” (before computers) and the Apple give-away of one computer to every school in California launching an education evolution which now provides Alameda students 1:1 online learning opportunities 24/7, on demand. I also remember the monumental change in elementary class sizes from 32 to 20:1 in K-3 (now 25:1) and the impact this continues to make on direct instruction.
Year-round education, K-8 school configuration, differentiated instruction, district-wide visioning to create a Graduate Profile, innovative programs, Go Green, district-wide elementary School Library, Music, and PE programs, and technology integration are a few more initiatives I feel have resulted in major improvements to the instruction our students receive.
Starting from a state-wide review system using skill-based instruction to developing site-based cycles of inquiry with site leadership teams, shared collaboration schedules, restorative justice, and now culturally responsive teaching, I’ve experienced an evolution of teaching practice that still relies on the commitment of classroom teachers to develop a community of learners and deliver meaningful learning experiences to our students.
What advice would you give a new teacher now?
Meet your teaching partners as soon as you can and share ideas and challenges together. Visit other classrooms, join Professional Learning Communities, and definitely reach out to each other! Building relationships with your students and parents as soon as you can will reap countless rewards and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Teaching can sometimes be isolating but I’ve always found that collaborating together supports our work and helps build a strong learning community.
What have you most enjoyed about working in this community?
Alameda is a learning community in which each neighborhood school is unique and reflective of those who attend it. I have had the pleasure of living around the corner from the school where I work and my now-grown children attended. I now have children attending my school whose parents attended my school. Although we have had many challenges to face over the years, our Alameda community always rallies and supports education. Learning together in the school library has been a joyful experience for me: one book at a time! I have been able to work on many committees and initiatives that truly made a difference for kids. It has been an honor to work alongside so many exceptional educators, with parents who support their children’s education, and with students who are eager to learn.
What plans do you have for retirement?
I caught the travel bug after taking students on trips to Washington DC, Boston, and New York, and especially Italy and Greece, so traveling is definitely something I want to do. I’d love to trace my Basque and Portuguese roots by spending time in the Pyrenees and Lisbon. I also plan to spend lots of time with my grandson DJ who lives in Lomita (SoCal) and who will be entering kindergarten this fall.
Although at first I can’t wait to sleep in and look forward to the lack of bells and work schedules, I know I won’t be happy sitting around for long, so I plan to develop some ideas I have for working with books, volunteering, some online librarianship possibilities, and to continue working with kids.